The Wolves of Mercy Falls: Shiver, Linger, Forever
Many stories are good. Some are even excellent. A few, a very few, are the kind of stories that take you outside of yourself for a while and set up residence inside your head while you're away. Reading these, time stops and the world disappears, and when you turn the last page and close the book it's almost a surprise to find that the world is still there, still turning just the way it was before. These are the kind of stories that make sifting through piles of average sameness worthwhile, the ones that make you laugh out loud, gasp, cry, the ones you can't read in public for the emotions that flicker across your face. I don't know what it is that sets these stories apart from the rest; I think if anyone did, there would be a lot more spectacular tales out there. I do know that for me, the Wolves of Mercy Falls is one of those stories.
I was planning to make this a review of Forever, the third book in the trilogy, but this is one of those times where it's extremely difficult for me to separate books when in my head they're a single story, probably because of the whole time-stopping, climbing-into-your-brain thing. For the same reason, I'm skipping a summary and only saying that the wolves of Mercy Falls aren't like any other werewolves you've ever seen. Maggie Stiefvater creates a thrilling, unique world of bitten humans who change to wolves when the temperature drops (though it turns out there's a little more to it than that). Her characters come alive in blue, green, red words on a page, each distinct and real. Their concerns, hopes, fears, loves are more than words; they wind around you until you're caught, without regret, in the tangle of their tale.
These stories are the reason I hold back five-star (or rather, cupcake) ratings even when I think a book is really very good. I've only read a handful of stories that startle with their shining*, but this is one of them. This is what it means to be a five-star book.
Characters: 5 cupcakes
Plot: 5 cupcakes
Style: 5 cupcakes
Overall: 12 million cupcakes (not really. Really it's five cupcakes. But seriously, go out and read it.)
*It's from "To Juan at the Winter Solstice" by Robert Graves, one of the few poems I actually know.